Befitting his Motor City Madman persona, Ted Nugent and his passion for rock ‘n’ roll burn brightly more than 40 years after his first commercial success with that blazing 1968 psychedelic hit from Detroit’s Amboy Dukes, “Journey to the Center of the Mind.”
“I’m ridiculously excited every day I wake up in America, overblown with excitement knowing that I’m gonna rock out with the most ferocious, tightest rock ‘n’ roll band on Earth, startlingly excited to know that real fellow American music lovers will be there to celebrate it with me,” Nugent said recently.
Nugent’s I Still Believe Tour hits the Texas Club in Baton Rouge Wednesday, Aug. 24.
“Mick Brown on drums, Greg Smith on bass guitar and Derek St. Holmes on vocals and guitar provide me with a fire-breathing rhythm section that every guitar player dreams of,” Nugent said. “Every night has been a wild animal roustabout and our audiences are the most intense ever. We are a very lucky American rock ‘n’ roll band, that’s for sure.”
St. Holmes, a member of Nugent’s classic post-Amboy Dukes, 1970s lineup, is part of the I Still Believe Tour.
“Having this incredibly talented Detroiter in the band fulltime is wonderful,” Nugent said. “No one can sing like Derek, and he is in prime voice and attitude right now. He has always joined us over the years here and there to sing the classics, so we decided to do it all summer long.
“To hear and feel the original vocal identity for ?Stranglehold,’ ?Just What The Dr. Ordered,’ ?Hey Baby’ and others is a killer throttle down memory lane.”
Of course, it all began with Nugent falling in love with rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s.
“I was maybe eight or nine years old,” he said. “The whole rock ‘n’ roll thing and guitar band thing was all so new when I started. I was drawn to jamming with pure abandon.”
Nugent began with an old acoustic guitar at 5 or 6 years old.
“My Aunt Nancy and mom strummed funny variations of folk songs in a most enjoyable, irreverent manner,” he recalled. “Then I heard electric guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll and there was no stopping me.”
The rock ‘n’ roll stars of the 1950s set a raucous example for the young Nugent. “I follow in the footsteps of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, the godfathers of American rock ‘n’ roll outrage,” he said. “These guys knew they were making unprecedented music that scared the living hell out of status quo sheep.
“And instead of obeying when told to tame it, they got more outrageous. I carry on that defiant spirit of individuality in my music. America was created by people who refused to be the slaves of kings or emperors. We met the king’s men at Concord Bridge and shot them dead. I like that. The energy, spirit and attitude of my music is born of revolution. Know that.”
Obviously, Nugent isn’t shy about speaking up. His hunting advocacy and right-wing political views, in addition to his music, keep him in the public eye.
“Logic and truth are beautiful things,” he said. “I am addicted to both. When one examines basic history, a thoughtful, caring, honest person knows exactly what to do and what not to do. I stand up for truth and logic and The American Way. Such pillars of freedom are compromised only by feeble people with no soul who don’t care about consequences.”
Nevertheless, Nugent said he can still be friends with musicians who, unlike himself, hold the liberal views more typical of musicians.
“Absolutely!” he said. “Some of my best friends are vegetarians.”
In another departure from musician stereotypes, Nugent has avoided the drugs and alcohol often associated with that particular segment of artists. And he has no sympathy for the many famous victims of substance abuse.
“I have been clean and sober all my life,” he said. “My gifts from God still function beautifully. My energy level is the highest it has ever been. My passion for life, freedom and my music is off the charts. And I am surrounded by inspirational people all the time.
“Drooling, puking, dying and destroying everyone’s lives around you is not a party. Dedicating one’s full resources to family, country and God has always been my modus operandi.”